Monday, June 27, 2011

27 Jun 11 (Mon) - Sweet Banana with Sago

Read that it is currently the durian season and also saw a food program on television yesterday recommending the nonya dessert called "Durian Pengat" so decided to google for the recipe today and hoping to get some durian in the afternoon to cook it after work. As the recipe requires coconut milk and was afraid that I may have leftover which I need to finish so googled other dessert recipes that make use of coconut milk. Chanced upon a recipe called "Sweet Banana with Sago Dessert" in a blog called Foodilicious and decided to copy and attempt it if I have any leftover coconut milk.

Went to Tanjong Pagar NTUC during lunch to get a pack of pandan leaves, a packet of pearl sago and a small packet of coconut milk. Then headed over to the market to see if there would be lots of durian available. Unfortunately, the lady from one of the fruit stalls told me that the peak of the season is next month so currently not many durians available. Nevertheless, I bought a small durian with about six seeds to be eaten fresh and a bunch of five fingers Del Monte banana.

After work, ate the durian, took my shower and then set off to cook the dessert. Followed the recipe as closely as I could and when I tasted it, it wasn't how it was described to be. Mine didn't taste sweet, instead it was towards saltish. So tried to save the pot of dessert by adding more white sugar and another banana. The amount of pearl sago wasn't enough either.

The end result wasn't too bad. So scooped some into the tiramisu glass I got from Interlaken to take some photos, then filled up a plastic container to bring to office the next day and the rest into a bowl to be eaten tomorrow after work. Left them on the table to cool before wrapping them with cling wrap and put into the fridge to chill.

Sweet Banana with Sago

Think I need to modify my next attempt such as using 80g pearl sago and only add salt at the end of the process to taste.

Ingredients (Make 5 small bowls):
200ml coconut milk
400ml water
3 tbsp pearl sago
2 large bananas, sliced
1 stalk pandan leaves
3 tbsp gula melaka
5 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp salt

1.  Wash the sago with water, drain and boil with water
2.  Add salt and pandan leaves then let simmer till sago turns transparent
3.  Add gula melaka and stir until dissolved
4.  Add the sliced bananas and the coconut milk little by little then let simmer until the bananas soften
5.  Add white sugar and stir until dissolved
6.  Turn off the fire and leave to cool
7.  Serve warm or chill

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

14 & 15 Jun 11 – Day 12 & 13 (Dubai)

Woke up late, had breakfast late and the breakfast spread wasn’t a lot. So toasted two slices of bread and ate them with some eggs and drank juice. Mag ate a lot of grilled tomatoes coz it was her favorite. The young couple went to ask the reception staff about information on the lunch in Burj Al Arab and in the end, they and the Tays decided not to go for it coz it was too expensive.

After eating, we went out to take a cab to Deira City Center Mall. There were a lot of cabs with different color top: green, yellow, red, blue, orange and so on. We took a yellow top cab and Kim paid the fare of AED15. Walked around the mall, Mag changed some AED, checkout the souvenir shops but didn’t buy anything coz we didn’t want to carry stuff around and we believed that such shops would be available in other malls. We saw Carrefour and went in to have a look. Mag said she needs the toilet and told us that she would meet us somewhere near the electrical appliances section so Kim and I walked the hypermarket on our own.

Took a small pack of Lay’s salt & vinegar chips coz recalled KC telling me that Lay’s brand has the sourest chips compared to other brands and a bottle of chewing gum. Kim saw some plastic files that came in packs and found them very cheap so she took two packs, some snacks as well. Made payment and she paid 20 Euro, when it was my turn, I also tried to pay in Euro coz I was out of AED. The cashier didn’t accept and so Kim had to pay for me using the AED she received as change earlier. Looked for Mag near the place she told us earlier but didn’t see her and it turned out that she was inside Carrefour in the area while we were trying to look for her outside Carrefour in the area.

Went out to look for the metro station but didn’t see any and so asked the security guard at the entrance. He told us that we needed to walk a bit further to see it. So we walked under the sun to get to the metro station. Once we got there we tried to figure out how to purchase the tickets. There were a couple of station staff wearing orange vest and one of them approached us when we were looking a bit lost. We told her that we wanted to go to the Mall of The Emirates station and she brought us to the information counter where we bought three tickets and Mag paid a total of AED19.50. Boarded the train and it was similar to our local MRT. During the journey, I could see the Burj Al Arab from a distance as mentioned by one of the people in the TripAdvisor.

Got to the Mall of the Emirates station, got out of it and there was a link bridge that connects the station to the mall. The mall was huge and we just walked and browsed the shops randomly coz we didn’t have anything in mind that we need to get. Was trying to spot the gold vending machine which I read should be in the Mall of the Emirates but couldn’t see any. Saw a Kipling shop and we went in to see coz Kim mentioned that her friend told her that it is cheaper to get Kipling’s bags in Dubai. Nothing caught my eye and the one that did is expensive. Kim was eyeing on a waist pouch but she didn’t get it in the end. Felt hungry and so went to the food court for lunch. There was some filming going on and so happened that the table we chose was close by.

Bought fish tikka rice and mountain dew and paid in Euro again coz I didn’t have enough AED. Mag had Japanese noodle and Kim had pad thai with soft drink. After eating, Mag went to the toilet again while I sat with Kim. She said the pad thai was good coz it was very spicy due to the chili padi. Sat and watched the filming and after Mag came out, we continued with the walking. Saw a souvenir shop and went in to browse. This time Kim and I bought a magnet and a set of coaster each and again we paid in Euro. Then we went to a shoe shop and Mag said she needs the toilet again and told us to go on ahead and meet her back outside the shoe shop later. Walked one round and went back to look for Mag but she wasn’t out yet. So I suggested to Kim to message Mag saying to message back once she’s done.

My lunch

Finally she came out and after a while we set off for Dubai Mall. Walked back to the station and were about the purchase the tickets from the ticket machine when Mag said that she wants to head back to the hotel. She asked Kim for the hotel name card and so Kim had to use her camera to take a snapshot of the card while I purchased two train tickets for AED13. Told Mag to message once she got back to the hotel and then we went our separate ways. While traveling on the train, there was a female staff in the cabin and she escorted a man to the next cabin. After a while, we realized that the cabin that we were in was only meant for women and children. Did I mention that sleeping on the train is prohibited? Yep, they have such a rule in Dubai and I was so impressed. Wondered aloud why Mag was having diarrhea coz all of us had the same breakfast and only realized that only Mag ate the grilled tomatoes.

Reached our destination, got out of the train and Kim said we could walk to the mall. But I saw the sign saying there was a shuttle service and so got out of the station and saw the bus. Asked the bus driver if it was a free shuttle service and only to find out that we need to get ticket. Saw Burj Khalifa and so took some photos before asking a man outside the station about the shuttle service. He directed us back into the station to get the ticket for the bus. Paid AED9 for two bus tickets and we bumped into the Tays on the bus. Got to Dubai Mall and we went our separate ways. Walked the Arab court where we saw many shops selling tailor-made abaya. Some with nice embroidery and some even have Swarovski crystals on them. We were tempted to get an abaya each but the price was too expensive. Headed straight to the end where the Dubai Fountain was and took some photos around the area before hiding back into the mall.

Burj Khalifa

Passed by Brunetti and I wanted to get ice cream. Kim who usually doesn’t eat sweet stuff also bought a single scoop of vanilla ice cream for herself while I bought a single scoop of strawberry cheesecake flavor ice cream. We stood and ate near the big aquarium. After we were done, we started walking around the mall. Popped into shops at random to look at things and there were simply too many shops in the mall. Saw another family of three: the parents and their son in the mall but was surprised that the other family of three consisting of the mother and two daughters weren’t together with them. We found a place to sit where Kim took out her camera and a blank piece of paper for me to draw the map of the hotel and write the address of the hotel.

Checkout the gold souk and I thought it was going to be a very big area with many gold shops but turned out that it was just a big area with many lanes line with two rows of shops and many were vacant. However, the decoration in the gold souk was nice and we took photos. Went into a LV shop coz Kim wanted to check the price of a bag and it turned out that it cost even more to buy LV bags in Dubai. Went into New Look and Kim managed to buy a pair of sandals. The shop didn’t accept Euro so we had to pool our AED for her payment. Then we went to the Kipling shop where I bought a pink sling bag and Kim bought a pink waist pouch. This time the shop accept Euro and the rate given was about 5.10.

Inside Dubai Mall Gold Souk

Mag messaged asking us to get her a 500ml bottle of water and a small bottle of cranberry juice. So went to the Galleria La Fayette Gourmet to get the water. Since the rest of us also need to drink so we bought a 1.5l bottle instead. However, we couldn’t find pure cranberry juice and so didn’t get that for her. It was evening and we wanted to see the Fountain show, therefore we walked towards the end of the mall where the fountain is. As we were on the top level and I saw a restaurant at that end and since we needed to eat dinner, I suggested to Kim that we dine in TGI Friday’s. I was surprised that she agreed to it so readily. We asked for window seats but only to realize that we would still be blocked. So I suggested to Kim that we move to the outdoor seats which offered a better view of the fountain.

I ordered a West Grouper while Kim ordered Sizzling Chicken and we had soft drinks each. The show started at 8pm to the music "Butterfly Lovers' Violin Concerto" and lasted about five minutes. My camera couldn’t take good night shots and so I took video instead. Our food came and we ate heartily while also chatting on and off. She talked about her work, how stressful she was, how bad her students were and so on. It wasn’t easy being a school teacher nowadays. 8:30pm came and the fountain show started again and this time with Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" and I took video of it too. Kim was surprised that each show comes with different music. There were some breeze and some water droplets fell on our faces and cameras.

The Dubai Fountain Show (P1) -
The Dubai Fountain Show (P2) -

Done with our food close to 9pm and we settled our bill. It cost a total of AED130, we paid in Euro and got back some change in AED. On the way to the cab stand, we checked out a shop that was having sale on some abaya. The designs weren’t fantastic and so we didn’t get in the end. It was only then I found out that Kim has the habit of getting national costumes of the places she visited. Went to the cab stand to queue for cab, got on to one and told the driver to go to Al Manar hotel. He lowered his window and started talking rapidly to the usher nearby. After a few minutes, we were told to get off the cab. We got off and stood there, didn’t know whether the usher would show us another cab or we have to get back to the queue. Finally one of the ushers flagged a cab for us and we told the driver our destination, we even showed him the map I drew. He took a few long looks of it and started driving.

As he drove, I was watching the meter and my heart was beating with the meter. We got caught with a few red lights and by the time the meter passed AED35, Kim and I started checking to see if we have enough AED. Calculated that we have about AED40+ and by the time the cab reached the area, the driver asked if that was our hotel, we said yes coz the surrounding was familiar. Alighted the cab after paying AED39 and we got a bit worried coz what Kim thought was our hotel was something else. After some searching, I saw the signboard of our hotel and we felt so relieve. As we didn’t have the room key, we had to press the doorbell hoping that Mag would open the door. She did and she seemed weak. Took out the water, she opened the cap and started gulping down water. Asked Mag how much she paid for her cab fare and she said it was about AED50. Kim was surprised but I reminded her that Mall of the Emirates is further than Dubai Mall from our hotel.

Showered, did some packing before hitting the bed only to wake up again about 2+am coz we had to be at the lobby by 4am to be picked up. The coach picked us up first before collecting the other two groups from the other two hotels. Reached the airport, checked in and Mag wanted to spend her AED. She had AED100+ left coz after she left the Mall of the Emirates station; she went to change another CHF20 worth of AED in case she didn’t have enough for cab fare. So popped into a shop and she bought some chocolates. As I still have AED1 left, I checked for things that I could get and in the end, I bought a pack of two-stick kit kat.

Soon it was time to board the plane and I watched a few movies so that I wouldn’t fall asleep coz I wanted to make sure I could sleep after I get back to Singapore. The plane landed about 7+pm and my sis came with her family to fetch me.

Thoughts: First time to Dubai and I went at the wrong time. Summer is too hot, next time I better go during winter which is from October to March. Didn’t go up Burj Khalifa and a good thing we didn’t make any reservations coz first it was too hazy to get a good view of Dubai and second, with Mag not feeling well, she could have wasted her AED100.

Next, it is better to change AED than to use foreign currencies in Dubai coz even though shops and restaurants may accept foreign currencies, the conversion rate that they use may not be favorable and also you may run the risk of the shops or restaurant not accepting foreign currencies.

Most of the female tourists seen in the shopping malls were dressed respectfully except a few who were in tubes or spaghetti straps but still covered up their legs or at least below knees. Some of them (I guess they were tourists) even wore the abaya, be it those wore over the top or just a drape over the clothes. I was so tempted to find something similar.

It is good that they have staff in metro stations to help tourists with the metro problems such as how to get tickets and which station to alight. Always remember to carry the hotel name card when exploring Dubai in case cab drivers don’t know the place.

The Dubai Fountain show is something not to be missed and is best to catch it from higher ground either during sunset or after dark.

Monday, June 13, 2011

13 Jun 11 – Day 11 (Dubai)

I shall skip the part on the plane and jumped right into Dubai trip report. Landed, cleared custom and our bags as well as luggage were subjected to scan. After my luggage was scanned, the guard stopped me and asked what the small metal bottle in the case was. So replied him it was the perfume I bought in Paris, he hesitated and another guard came around. After a while, he let me passed and another guard helped me bring the luggage down. Finally got out, found the local guide, Asad, and was told that the group from London would be late due to flight delay. So he suggested that we get some food while waiting. Found seats at the nearby café and ordered a blueberry muffin and medium cup mocha. Cecilia told us beforehand that we could use Euro or CHF or USD in Dubai and so we didn’t change any AED. Asked the cashier if he accept Euro and he said yes and converted AED29 to Euro where I paid 10 Euro and got back AED18.

My breakfast

Waited for quite a long while before the group finally arrived and we started our city tour. Once we stepped out of the airport, we could feel the heat wave hitting us. Got onto the coach and the local guide started telling us about Dubai. Will just write down what I can remember: Local men married foreign women, their wives will never be able to get citizenship; local women married foreign men, their husbands and kids will never be able to get citizenship; when a couple gets married, the government will give them US$23,000; local kids get free education; Dubai is a safe place like Singapore, no pickpockets so on and so forth.

During the journey, we saw many low-rise houses with nice designs and when we entered the city, we saw many construction works going on and many tall buildings. I took some photos while traveling but the photos were having a tint of yellow due to the shade on the coach windows. The coach brought us to the Atlantis, near the Palm Island (Palm Jumeirah) for a photo stop. Got out of the coach, took some quick shots and went back into the coach.

Couple of photos taken from the coach :

Alantis, Dubai 

Next was the Burj Al Arab, the 7-stars hotel of Dubai. We didn’t go there, just stopped afar at a beach to take some photos and while there, we saw people doing surfing. Took another series of quick shots and headed back to the coach. Asad told us that during the free day on the next day, we could consider going to Burj Al Arab for lunch even though it’s going to be expensive, at least go there for the experience. Some of the members expressed interest and intended to enquire about the reservations. The next photo stop was the Jumeirah Mosque and again we got down, took a few quick shots and ran up the coach again.

Burj Al Arab

Jumeirah Mosque

I was wearing long-sleeve shirt over a tank top with sleeves rolled up and after two photo stops, I could feel my skin burning up therefore quickly rolled the sleeves all the way down. Next we headed to the Dubai Mall, the world's largest shopping mall and while walking through the all towards Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, we saw the big aquarium. Took some photos of Burj Khalifa and went back into the mall to the food court for food.

Burj Khalifa

Bought tacos and cinnamon twists for myself, Mag bought tacos and apple pie while Kim bought Japanese food. I paid in AED and exhausted most of it. Met up at the meeting point and Asad came along. Asked him for some ideas of what to do on free day and he suggested that we explore the gold and spice souks in the morning, then take a cab to Deira City Centre Mall to take metro to Mall of The Emirates and go to Dubai Mall last so that we could catch the Dubai Fountain show at night. He pointed out that after taking metro to Dubai Mall, we need to connect a cab coz the mall is some distance away from the station.

Hopped onto the coach and we were on our way back to the hotel. There were three groups of us: one group arrived from London, another group that came to Dubai with us and we were allocated three different hotels. The coach dropped the other two groups at their respective hotels before bringing us to Al Manar hotel. From the outside, we thought the hotel wasn’t fantastic but once inside, it was a different story. The hotel is actually hotel apartment and so triple sharing ones got bigger apartments that were equipped with kitchen (including pots, pans, cutlery and so on), a dining area, a living room, two bedrooms (one came with own toilet) and a common toilet.

Kim was quick to take the master bedroom that came with a toilet so Mag and I had to share the other room. As Kim and I complained about Mag being noisy in the morning, she put her stuff in the dining area while I put mine in the bedroom and Kim in her own room. Settled down, washed up and sat down to eat lunch. After that Kim went for a short nap while Mag and I chatted to kill time coz we had to get ready by 4pm to be picked up for the Desert Safari trip.

My lunch

Soon it was time, initially was thinking of wearing covered shoes coz I remembered reading it from a post in TripAdvisor but since both Kim and Mag wore sandals and so I went with it. Gathered at the lobby, Mag asked the staff at the reception counter for map and name card of the hotel. She said they only had one name card and so she took a snapshot of the card before handing it over to Kim. Our drivers came and we were told one land cruiser could take six persons but our group had 13 people so one of the cruisers would have to take seven people.

The two families of three in our group were quite close during the trip and so they occupied one land cruiser and the rest of us, the Tays, the young couple and the three of us took the other land cruiser. When we came to the car, the three of us were quick to say we would take the back seat and the driver commented that we were very cooperative. Kim and Mag got in and they both took the side, leaving the middle seat for me. Our driver is called Asif and he’s from Pakistan. Mr Tay beside him during the journey and asked a lot of questions and from the answers that Asif gave; we got to know more about Dubai. Asif was a humorous man, he joked a lot so our journey to the desert wasn’t boring.

Made a first stop at a shop for toilet and there were already a lot of people inside. Once we stepped into the shop, the staff started wrapping our heads with the traditional white headscarves. They were trying to sell the scarves to us. Was interested and when the lady of the young couple asked for another color, me and Mag did the same coz the material was thinner. They charged us AED20 per piece and as I didn’t have enough AED, Mag paid for me first. The young couple was teachers and the guy bought the full set of the traditional costume so that he could use during the Racial Harmony Day in school. Happy with our purchases, we returned to the car and Asif said since Kim didn’t buy the scarf, he gave her a hat.

Some photos taken while in the car :

Continued with the journey and Asif told us to look closely at the desert, the sand changed from yellow to red. How peculiar. As I was seated in the middle so I wasn’t able to take many photos while Kim and Mag went shutter happy. Soon we came to another stop in the desert where Asif had to deflate the tires so as to prepare the car for the ride into the sand dunes. There were a lot of other cars doing the same thing and after instructing us to put on our seat belts, we soon found ourselves into the desert sand. Asif driving skill was pretty good and we went dune bashing one after the other, just like rollercoaster ride but even rougher than that. It was simply exhilarating and I was enjoying myself very much.

Made a stop in the middle of the desert for photos and as soon as we got out of the car and stood in the desert, sands got into our sandals. You just couldn’t avoid it coz the sands were really soft and fine, they just kept flowing into the sandals. Helped to take photos for the young couple with the guy in full costume and we had fun. Kim and Mag climbed up a sand dune and I tried to do it as well. Had some difficulties and one of the drivers sitting on top of the dune told me it would be easier to walk without sandals. Despite his advice, I made it up the dune but didn’t dare to move around too much coz the sand was simply too soft to walk on. Walked slowly down the dune and finally decided to just take off the sandals since there was already too much sand inside. Tried walking up the dune again and true enough, it was much, much easier and the driver said good for foot massage which I totally agree.

Couple of photos taken while in the desert :

Soon it was time to go and Asif told us to take off the sandals before going into the car so as not to bring too much sand into it. Did a few more rounds of dune bashing before heading to the camp site. During the journey, Asif briefed us of what to expect and what to do after we reached the camp site. He said there would be free camel ride and once inside the camp, there would be an area where we could try shisha pipes, an area for free henna painting, an area for drinks, an area for appetizers and there would be someone with a falcon for people to take pictures with. And that once we get there, we were to find seats, place something there before going to get food.

Finally reached the camp site, did what Asif told us before going to get drinks with Mag. Kim and Mrs Tay were not feeling too well after the sand dunes ride and so they were sitting down to rest. Saw a local lady doing henna painting and so hurried over with Mag to do ours. After that, the guy of the young couple told us about the camel ride but Mag didn’t want to ride. So I thought it was a no go for me since it seemed like it required two to ride. Went to the camel riding place anyway and they kept psychoing me to join the queue and so I did. Mr Tay was there in the front and he asked me to help him take photo. He was alone and so Mag suggested that I rode with Mr Tay and so I did. I sat in the front and he was at the back. It was fun riding a camel and especially when the camel was bending down, we had to hold on to the handle really tight.

Back to our seats, ate some appetizer and then the belly dancing started. My camera couldn’t take nice night shots and fast movements and so I took video instead. The belly dancer wore very nice costume and danced to a few songs. Her movements were smooth and nice. About 8pm, dinner started and everyone went to queue for food. Mag and I waited for the queue to clear a little before joining. We didn’t know there was difference in queuing and we just join one of the two. The staff at the camp signaled to us to join the other one and then after some observations, we realized that they separated the two queues into female and male. Took a little bit of everything and went to the other table where the staff distributed the meat.

Belly Dance during Desert Safari in Dubai -

Ate our food while watching the tanoura dance and it was really beautiful. The big skirt had many layers and the dancer just spun round and round for so long. I was so impressed. Took video of it and after that continued with my food. Couldn’t finish the meat and also because most of the others were already done eating so gobbled what I could and quickly gathered back to the car. Journey back to hotel was a bit quiet coz I guessed everyone was tired. Night time in the desert was really dark and when we got back to the city, there were lots of neon signs and there were people on the streets and eating places. Daytime it was simply too hot for people to walk on the street and so most of them only came out after the sun set. Back to hotel, confirmed the plan for the next day and it was going to be mall-hopping coz the ladies didn’t want to go out under the hot sun. So washed up quickly and hit the bed coz was so very tired.

Tanoura Dance during Desert Safari in Dubai -

Thoughts: The incident at the airport left me a bad impression of Dubai initially but after a while, I told myself that I shouldn’t be too quick to judge. Perhaps the guards were just being careful but at that point in time, I was really quite scared and I could almost feel my face getting flushed. I did read about one of the people in TripAdvisor subjected to stringent checks but didn’t think it would happen to me.

Even though it is hot, it is better to wear long sleeves to protect the skin from sunburn and do apply lots of sun block lotion. Keep hydrated, use an umbrella or at least wear a cap and wear sunglasses coz of the big, glaring sun. Think it is better to wear sandals for the desert safari coz easier to take off if you want to climb the sand dunes. Besides, it isn’t too bad walking on the sand, really feels like foot massaging.

Dune bashing was really, really fun and the camp was good, food was ok and I think I like the yogurt (I think it was yogurt) best. The belly dance and tanoura dance were worth watching and the music was very nice. I don’t mind doing the Desert Safari again if I ever go to Dubai again and I guess it will be really neat if I can spend a night in the desert but not during summer though.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

12 Jun 11 – Day 10 (Paris)

As per the day before, we woke up late and had breakfast late. As the checkout time was 10am, we only went out after checking out and putting our luggage in the hotel storage room. Took tram and connected a metro to Cardinal Lemoine station and used the map to find Pantheon Paris. Passed by Saint-Étienne-du-Mont and wanted to go in but there was a sign that said no entry on Sunday morning. So moved on to find Pantheon Paris and we found it. Took some photos of the Pantheon, the Pantheon-Assas Paris II University and Mairie of the 5th district (building that houses the Municipal Services of the 5th district) nearby in the open space outside the Pantheon before getting tickets to go in. The website stated 7 Euro but we ended up paying 8 Euro so I guessed the website wasn’t updated.


Pantheon, Paris

Mairie of the 5th district

Pantheon-Assas Paris II University

Open space in front of Pantheon, Paris

Saw a sign saying that visitors could go up the building for a panoramic view of Paris and so we decided to first walk around the building before queuing to go up. I’m not good at appreciating architecture so I could only describe Pantheon Paris as very big with very tall pillars, a big pendulum in the center hall, sculptures and paintings at the sides, lots of skylights and I particularly like the fact that it doesn’t have too many strong colors like those in Palace of Versailles.

Some photos of the Pantheon, Paris :

Headed to the crypt and the first thing we saw was Voltaire's statue and tomb, tried to take photos but didn’t come out well. There were some rooms that were empty with doors closed and locked. Mag asked me if those were meant for people to sleep in and I couldn’t remember if I replied to her that they were meant to put coffins. Walked further in and saw other rooms that were opened and some were beautifully decorated. If I recalled correctly, I thought I pass by one that has Marie Curie and there were flowers on her grave. A Caucasian lady was inside taking photos and so I didn’t have a chance.

Came out of the crypt and we went to queue up to go up the building. Each session only allows a maximum of 50 persons. There were two guides, one leading and one at the end to make sure no one was left behind. We first made a stop to the top of the hall within the building before climbing more steps to get to the top and more steps before reaching the dome. We climbed a total of 206 steps but the view offered was great and we saw Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, Notre Dame Cathedral and if I’m not wrong, Basilica of the Sacré Cœur as well. Walked round the dome, taking photos for each other before gathering together to go back down.

Some photos taken during the trip up Pantheon, Paris for panoramic view of Paris :


Reached the ground floor and we headed out to hunt for lunch. Crossed the road and we saw a café called Crepe A Gogo so we went in, found a table and placed our orders. Mag and I had sweet crepes while Kim had savory one. Food was good and I don’t remember eating in a café in Paris during my previous visit. After eating, we followed the map to Luxemburg Garden and along the way passed by souvenir shop where Kim and I bought t-shirts, magnet and coasters. Shortly after we stepped into Luxemburg Garden, we saw a school band performing and there were lots of people sitting on the chairs provided or standing around to watch the performance.

Inside Crepe A Gogo

School band performing
My lunch - La Belle Helene

The audience

Performance ended and we continued to walk around. The garden was huge and we saw a very big, pool where there were ducks, kids playing with toy yachts, people sitting around it on chairs provided doing reading or just chit-chatting in front of the Luxembourg Palace. On the other side were big patches of grassland and there were lots of people sitting on their picnic mats lazing around. Walked on and saw a group of people practicing martial arts I think. We saw playground, tennis court and an open space where kids could rent cars to cycle about. If only there were such big, big gardens back home. The garden was so huge that we didn't really cover the whole place or see the Luxembourg Palace.

Some photos taken while in the Luxembourg Garden :

Left Luxemburg Garden and headed to Galleria La Fayette Montparnasse. The night before Kim was saying that this was the one we went on the first day and I was in doubt. Found it and it looked awfully quiet and very different from the one we saw. Only then we realized that the one we went was Galleria La Fayette Paris, the flagship store and because it was Sunday, the store was closed. So walked around the area to see if there was anything interesting and saw some tents along a road. Browsed around and saw many people selling their artworks such as paintings, handmade jewelry and so on.

Done with that and we didn’t know where else to go and we still had a couple of hours left. Suggested that we find a place to drink something and people watch but Mag suggested that we take the tram from one end to the other. Kim preferred to be on the move so she opted for Mag’s suggestions. So found the nearest metro station to get to tram 2. We didn’t manage to sit to the end coz of time constrain and so turned back after a few stops to get back to the hotel. Got back, claimed our luggage, did some repacking and then waited for the coach to bring us to the airport.

Traffic was rather smooth, reached airport and did our check-in before hunting for food. Kim and Mag shared nine chicken wings while I had potato wedges and a drink. Soon it was time to board the plane to fly to Dubai.

Light meal before boarding

Thoughts: My second time to Paris and only managed to do a bit more of what I intended to do the previous round. Nevertheless, I learnt to take things in my stride, explore at my own pace and appreciate Paris more. At least I got to eat in a café this time. I hope to return to Paris again to do more exploration and it would be good if I get to spend more days there.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

11 Jun 11 – Day 9 (Paris)

Since today we were on our own so we decided to wake up a bit later than usual. Only went for breakfast at 8+am and we saw Cecilia. Asked her a few questions of getting around and also the hotel for Dubai. She gave us the reference number for the hotel in Dubai and then told us that it would be more economical to get a carnet of 10 tickets to get around. Told her that we would be going to the Louvre Museum today and she said we should have told her yesterday so that she could help us get advance tickets from Galleria La Fayette coz there maybe chances that we need to queue for two hours for tickets and getting in.

The family of 10 left for London and some of the members opted for the optional tour to the Factory Outlet, Notre Dame Cathedral and a couple of other places. We bumped into the family of four and an older couple (Mr & Mrs Tay). They asked where the three of us would be going and they wanted to tag along. So after eating, we went to check with the reception staff how to get to the nearest metro and were told that we need to take tram to get to the nearest metro station. So arranged with the family of four and the couple to meet at the lobby at 10:45am and headed out together.

Followed the directions given and found the tram station, Henri Farman. We needed to get tickets from the ticket machine and it only accepts coins. So we had to pool our coins together to get enough tickets to get to the metro station. Got on the tram and while traveling, we saw Pullman Hotel again and realized that there was a tram station called Suzanne Lenglen near it. Reached the station Porte de Versailles and went to the metro station to get tickets from the ticket counter. After that, we followed Kim’s lead to take line 12 all the way to Concorde to connect to line 1 to Palais Royal Musee du Lourve.

Alighted and we exited to the underground mall. The family of four went their way and the older couple followed us. Saw the place to get tickets and the queue was short but we recalled Cecilia saying that we may take two hours to get into the Museum. So we decided to go check the queue before getting the tickets. The queue was not too long and seemed to be moving quite fast and so quickly hurry back to the shop to get tickets and joined the queue to get in. Had our bags checked and then we were in. Went our separate ways with the Tays and we had a bit of a difficulties finding our way. Saw the pyramid and we took the escalator up and found ourselves inside the glass pyramid.

Finally figured out and we headed for the Richelieu wing first where we saw many sculptures and then followed by paintings. We took some photos while we walked. After that, we headed to the Denon wing and like all tourists do, we hunted for the Mona Lisa. Along the way, we saw people sitting down on benches to draw either in ink or using pencil. Some even brought their drawing stand and materials to paint. Finally found Mona Lisa and it was crowded with people. So could only take photo of it from afar. Last but not least, we went to the Sully wing and saw more masterpieces.

Some photos taken in the Louvre Museum :

We were done in about two to three hours and I wonder aloud why the queue was not as long as what Cecilia had told us. Then we figured out that we actually entered via the group entrance underground instead of the one on ground floor. Walked around the underground mall Carrousel du Louvre where I found Fragonard and bought perfumes while Kim bought bar soap. Then Kim went to another shop where she bought t-shirts. We went for late lunch at the food court and after eating; we went to take photos of the inverted pyramid. Mag saw a blue handbag in a shop that cost 300 Euro. She thought about it for a while before finally getting it and then we came out of the Museum to the garden where Mag found a bench for her to repack her stuff into the new bag.

The name of the food court

My lunch

After she was done, we headed to Notre Dame Cathedral since Mag has not been there before and we were hoping to climb the tower. Walked there, passed by Pont des Arts where we saw a lot of padlocks on the railing of the bridge. By the time we reached Notre Dame Cathedral, it was about 4pm I think and we joined the long queue to get in. Walked around and half way through we lost Kim. She messaged me saying that she would be waiting at the entrance. So we joined her shortly and walked around the area. Saw the queue to go up the tower and it was long and also I read that the tower closes at 5:15pm so we did not have much time for it.

Pont des Arts

Lots of padlocks on the railing

 Some photos taken in Notre Dame Cathedral :

Passed by a stall selling crepes with banana and nutella and we were tempted to buy but in the end we didn’t. Walked towards St. Louis Island and was trying to find La Maison Berthillon. Found it but again there was a very long queue so we didn’t wait for it. It was evening and we were getting hungry. Wandered into the 4th arrondissement but we didn’t see many cafes around. So in the end, we decided to take the metro to Balard station which is near to Pullman Hotel to go to the Aquabolevard nearby to get food before taking the tram back.

Got to Aquabolevard and we stood around to see the activities inside the indoor pool. Saw many people in there, swimming, playing water slides and so on. Walked around to decide what food to get and in the end, I bought a piece of pizza and a raspberry tartlet from two different stalls as dinner. Took the tram back, showered, settled down and ate my dinner while sorting out the things I bought. Kim came over and we discussed what to do for the next day. She suggested going for an opera show and asked Mag to check using her iphone. Turned out that the operas were either in Italian or German and they started late and would last for many hours.

Indoor pool in Aquabolevard

My dinner

Referred to the booklet that I had prepared for the trip, I planned that we could explore the Latin Quarter in the 5th arrondissement and so we decided to choose a place in the booklet to visit. We settled on Pantheon Paris and Luxembourg Garden before going to bed.

Thoughts: Well… This is my second visit to Paris and I was hoping to do the things I missed during my previous visit. However, I know how Kim works and so I kept reminding myself to take things easy and just go with the flow. Though we didn’t do much for the day, at least we enjoyed ourselves by walking and exploring at our own pace and appreciate the surroundings in Paris.